A program “exit” refers to the withdrawal of all externally provided program resources from an entire program area, or from communities or districts within a program area. It could also refer to the end of a program funding cycle, with an extension through a recovery program or a longer-term development program.
In principle, in an emergency setting, the “exit” of humanitarian activities should happen only when the exceptional needs arising from the emergency no longer exist and restored protection, health and related services, together with ongoing development activities, can meet the needs of the population. Ideally, there would be a smooth transition from relief through recovery and into normal and development activities. In practice, humanitarian assistance sometimes has to be closed earlier because of several reasons as lack of resources, funding restrictions, security concerns, changes in the political environment, etc.
In the last year Turkey and Jordan cross-border operation in Syria experienced the “exit” of many actors and/or programs, because of short donor programme cycles, restrictions in the operational environment, shifting line of control, and access and security issues. Some INGOs and a number of Syrian partners went through the process of closing down women and girls safe spaces (WGSS) and GBV services. The complete shift of line of control in South Syria in summer 2018 presented a scenario where the emergency was quick and closure immediate, with no possibility of handover and/or continuity of services in any form; while in other scenarios handover was possible. The GBV Sub-Cluster determined that developing guidance to support GBV actors to formulate appropriate exit strategies that follow the do no harm approach is of absolute importance.
Regardless of the reason for closure, in fact the hazards of not approaching the process in a considered and organized way remain the same. Of primary concern are the security risks that can arise for GBV survivors, service providers and the entire community. Therefore, how stakeholders are made aware of the closure and supported during the preparation for departure will be crucial in minimizing these risks.
Finally, the experience showed the importance of collecting lessons learnt from the exit/closure that can be used by other GBV actors in similar situations.
This guidance note fill an important gap in the sector where limited guidelines and resources are available on the topic of ethnical closure of GBV programming.